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Coach's Corner--April 21, 2008

What to do when colleague seems to take too much credit

The Client
Name: Beth
Age: 32
Title: Marketing manager
Time at company: 3 years 
Industry: Health care
Issue: Getting the credit you deserve
Q. A colleague and I co-lead many activities in our team, and generally we work together OK. However, he tends to take more credit for our accomplishments than I think is fair. How should I handle this?

A. Feeling shorted on recognition? In most situations, there’s enough to go around, so build your skills in attracting recognition from others.

The inner game
Start with inner steps to clarify your working relationship with your colleague and lay the groundwork for gaining more acknowledgement for your contributions.

To start, imagine your colleague’s motivation from all angles. Is he grandstanding? Extroverted? Insecure? Enthusiastic? The real story is probably a combination of many perspectives, including some you may not have thought of. Seeing possible reasons behind his behavior will help you have compassion for him, rather than create a hostile image of him. Then use this to build even more positive interactions.

Then, there’s you. What are you doing to spread the word about your contributions? Many people hold back, reluctant to blow their own horns. Others deflect praise because they feel uncomfortable or undeserving. In turn, acknowledgements become increasingly scarce. Think about how you share your achievements and how you respond. Notice what holds you back as you seek to build your visibility. Also, look inward and evaluate your contributions. Would your teammates agree with your sense of accomplishment, or is there more you could be doing?

Finally, focus on your desired outcome. How would you like to influence your colleague? What type of acknowledgement would you like to receive? Once this is clear, you’re ready to take action.

The outer game
There are two areas for action: talking to your colleague and promoting yourself within the organization.

To open the conversation, consider the following steps. First, choose a neutral environment. Getting out of the office, perhaps for lunch or coffee, can create a safer setting. Then, focus the conversation on your feelings, rather than pointing your comments at him. For example, try “I’m looking for ways to get more visibility for my contributions to the team” instead of “you always get the credit for what we do.” Keeping the focus on your desired outcome can enlist him as a partner rather than trigger defensiveness.

Also, have proactive steps in mind, such as sharing responsibility for distributing status reports, or writing articles for companywide publications. He may resist changes to the status quo; in that case, you’ll have to be more forceful. Your inner work will help you understand his possible motivations and will equip you to overcome your reservations.

Be ready to share your story with others. Consider preparing talking points so that you’re ready when you’re asked what you’ve been doing. Then reciprocate so that you learn more about what others are achieving. This will build your reputation and create a rich set of good working relationships.

The last word
There is a lot of pressure for visibility in organizations, and with new approaches to communication, you’ll receive the credit you deserve while enhancing your relationships with your co-workers.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted April 21, 2008
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